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Upcoming Ontario byelections could serve as key leadership test for Ford and Crombie

Upcoming Ontario byelections could serve as key leadership test for Ford and Crombie
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New polling offers an insight into two upcoming Ontario byelections that could both serve as tests for newly-elected Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie and Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford.

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Two southwestern Ontario ridings have had vacant seats since one of the government ministers representing them resigned his seat to take on a job outside of politics, while the other launched a federal run.

The Progressive Conservative government will have to call byelections for both Lambton-Kent-Middlesex and Milton. The deadline to call a byelection in the first riding is expected to be Wednesday.

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New polling suggests the Tories are leading in that race, though the contest in Milton appears to be a dead heat.

Polls conducted by Liason Strategies for the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada in the two ridings found the PCs ahead at 32 per cent in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, with the Liberals and PCs neck-and-neck at 29 and 30 per cent respectively in Milton.

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The two ridings will provide the first tests of both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative campaign machines since Crombie was elected as Liberal leader at the end of 2023.

A contest will need to be called in Milton after former minister of red tape reduction Parm Gill stepped down to run for federal government under Pierre Poilievre’s Conservative Party banner at the start of the year.

Crombie publicly toyed with the idea of running in the seat, which borders Mississauga, for weeks before the party selected a local candidate.

Liaison Strategies polling shows local voters are evenly split between Crombie’s Liberals and Ford’s Progressive Conservatives. Thirty per cent of voters would opt for the Tories if the election were today, with 29 per cent voting Liberal.


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“Milton was a tight race in the 2022 election with the Ford Tories winning by only four per cent,” said David Valentin, principal at Liaison Strategies.

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Gill won 43 per cent of the popular vote in the last election, with his Ontario Liberal rival netting 39 per cent. The NDP garnered 10 per cent of the vote.

“Among all voters, the PCs hold a razor-thin one-per cent  lead, while among those decided and leaning the Liberals and Tories are tied at 39 per cent a piece,” Valentin continued.

“This is the kind of riding Bonnie Crombie needs to win if she’s going to form a government. Conversely, if Doug Ford and the PCs can hold onto seats like Milton, it bodes well for re-election.”

The Progressive Conservatives have nominated Zee Hamid as their candidate and the Liberals have selected Galen Naidoo Harris

The riding of Lambdon-Kent-Middlesex has been vacant for longer than Milton, ever since former minister of labour Monte McNaughton resigned his seat for a job in the private sector in the fall of 2023.

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The seat has been held by the Progressive Conservatives since 2011 and was won comfortably by McNaughton in the last election. The former cabinet minister pulled in 59 per cent of the vote in 2022, with the NDP in second on 19 per cent.

Current polling shows the Tories well ahead but down on their last result.

“Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, meanwhile, is trending Tory,” Valentin said.

“This is not a surprise in a longtime PC stronghold, though the PC vote is currently down 20 points. Some of that was probably unavoidable; longtime MPP Monte McNaughton is no longer on the ballot and byelections are sometimes a way for voters to send a message to the governing party.”

The Liason Strategies polling shows the PCs at 32 per cent, the Liberals at 21 per cent and the NDP down at 11 per cent. It shows the Ontario Green Party at eight per cent.

The Progressive Conservatives have nominated local councillor Steve Pinsonneault as their candidate in the riding, while the Liberals have tapped Cathy Burghardt-Jesson, who also hails from the municipal world.

The NDP have selected Kathryn Shailer as their candidate.

The Ford government has already been dealt a blow in past byelections since winning power for a second term in 2022.

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The four byelections held since the last election have all sent opposition MPPs to Queen’s Park. Most recently, the Ontario Greens took Kitchener Centre from the NDP and the Ontario Liberals grabbed Kanata–Carleton from former PC cabinet minister Merrilee Fullerton.

Valentin said the next two byelections will be an opportunity for both the Crombie Liberals and the Ford Conservatives to test their attacks on one another and see if a barrage of mutual criticism is shifting public opinion.

“We’ll learn a lot from these byelections as the parties test-run their campaign messages,” Valentin said.

“These will be the first contests held with Bonnie Crombie as the new leader. Both ridings will have important pieces of information as we approach the 2026 Ontario election.”

METHODOLOGY

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex: Liaison surveyed a random sample of 403 Lambton-Kent-Middlesex voters through Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) from March 27-28, 2024. The margin of error for this survey is ±4.88 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Milton: Liaison surveyed a random sample of 451 Milton voters through Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) from March 27-28, 2024. The margin of error for this survey is ±4.62 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Responses were weighted using demographic and geographic information to targets based on the 2021 Census. The poll interviewed a random sample of just over 400 voters in the two ridings. It had a margin of error of +/- 4.88 per cent in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex and 4.62 per cent in Milton.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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